Here on this site, I often encountered one advice regarding salary negotiations for a new job: Don't state the salary you aim for, as this allows the hiring manager to match this figure even if he/she has a higher budget.

I wonder if this is applicable in all business cultures. I'm a (non-software) engineer in Germany. I often read that at least for first jobs after graduation, the standard interview question for the target salary is more a gauge for ones sense of realism re. pay, not so much a part of negotiation. Case in point: At my first job where salary was not fixed anyway because of standing collective wage agreements. At my second job, I got paid more than I asked for. But maybe I did poor research, now I'm pretty sure I'm underpaid.

To get back to my question: Is it acceptable in German industry culture to withhold ones target salary, or does this rather raise red flags with HR people (considered rude, "not playing by he rules)?

Edit to add To clarify, I'm not asking about how entry level wages come about, I'm asking about wether I should tell my target salary. I'm not convinced that negotiating tactics from the anglophone world, possibly from the software industry, work equally well in german business culture so I'm looking for answer that specifically adress engineers in Germany.

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    I'm not sure why you'd think "engineers on the German job market" would make a difference (and that makes the question pretty localized) - negotiation is negotiation (I might even go as far as saying this is a duplicate of this question - a few of those answers don't actually say you shouldn't be the first to mention a target salary). May 9, 2014 at 12:39
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    If this aspect of job-hunting varies by location and/or type of job, then I think it's useful to have the specific questions alongside the general ones. Yes this can be taken to extremes -- electricians in Poughkeepsie would be too specific -- but "engineer (not software)" and "Germany" both seem like they'd affect a lot of people. We're a worldwide site. May 9, 2014 at 17:35
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    re. localization - many questions here are implicilty about IT jobs in the USA. While the business culture may be the same in other fields or countries, it's not safe to assume it is.
    – mart
    May 9, 2014 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


I haven't done this in a while in Germany, so my views may be a little out of date. Here goes

This day and age salary ranges for certain positions are really not much of a secret anymore. See for example http://www.spiegel.de/karriere/berufsleben/gehaltsreport-was-ingenieure-in-welchen-branchen-verdienen-a-927737.html or http://www.ingenieurkarriere.de/_library/content/download/obj2559_Gehaelter_2013.pdf

In essence that's what the company expects to pay for a certain job description. By doing your homework, you can fairly well estimate what their target salary is. If that compares well to what you expect, than you are all good. Take your expectation, put 10% on for good measure and that's your target.

If there is a significant mismatch between their target and what you want, than that is a serious problem. A hiring manager typically gets a job approved with a certain budget attached. It's a royal pain to get this adjusted since the hiring manager needs to renegotiate the whole thing with her/is management. The candidate has to be really outstanding to warrant that effort.

The main reason why the HR people are asking for your target is actually NOT to get ahead in the negotiation but to determine early on whether there is a major misalignment and in which case there is no point in wasting more time on this candidate. That's also why it's typically okay to reply with a range and not a specific number. So "I'm looking for something in the mid seventies" is a perfectly okay answer.

  • "This day and age salary ranges for certain positions are really not much of a secret anymore" - that pretty much true in all countries for all jobs, so this answer isn't really specific to Germany or engineers, which the question is pretty specifically about. May 9, 2014 at 12:51
  • The links that I've added provide specifically salary info from Engineers in Germany
    – Hilmar
    May 9, 2014 at 16:31
  • The fact that the links are only relevant to engineers in Germany doesn't change the fact that this information is publicly available for pretty much all positions everywhere. You can, without changing anything else in your answer, replace those links with a link to glassdoor, which would make the only reference to engineers in Germany the first line, which you can really edit out without losing any value - having links specific to something doesn't make the whole answer so. May 9, 2014 at 17:08
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    I have negotiated non-software engineering salaries in the US and in Germany. The process is really not that different. The fact that the answer is applicable to the US doesn't make it invalid for Germany, I think.
    – Hilmar
    May 9, 2014 at 22:58

In Germany the usual way is this:

  1. If you're applying for a job, look if the job advertisement asks for your expected salary (most do). If it doesn't, don't mention it in your application. If it does, aim a bit higher than you'd like to get to have some leeway for negotiations. It is also OK to provide a span (e.g. 45-47.000€), as long as it's not too broad (so it doesn't look clueless). If the job advertisement provides too few information, you can say you'd to discuss your expected salary in person.

  2. In the interview they will insist on you telling your expectation first (except public services, where salaries are often fixed). It's common to aim a bit higher than you really want. Especially smaller companies might ask what they could offer you instead of money (to pay you less ;-)).

I've had several interviews yet, and about half of them had two interview phases, where in the first one they'd like get the best candidates for the second round. Salary is addressed briefly in the first interview to check if it could work, more detailed discussion would follow in the second interview. After the second round, they'll make an offer to their favorite candidate.

  • Did you, or someone you know, attempt to get the interviewing party to show their cards first? How did it go (if yes)?
    – mart
    May 12, 2014 at 19:35
  • No, as far as I know not. But any tactics here would be very interesting ;-) May 12, 2014 at 19:40
  • I am also from Germany, and I feel it is very untypical here to refuse to tell salary expectations. From what I know by talking to recruiters, It may be even considered a lapse by the recruiting department, showing bad preparation. Instead, people expect (or at least tolerate) that you aim (reasonably) higher than what you are willing to accept. I doubt that the rules of the anglophone world can be translated to Germany in this case.
    – Thern
    May 4, 2017 at 6:40

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